Siena coach Jimmy Patsos doesn’t want his freshman guard Nico Clareth to be Marquis Wright. He doesn’t want him to even try. Won’t work.
With Wright, Siena’s do-everything guard, out until mid-February with a stress fracture in his right foot, Clareth is the logical candidate to step in an assume much of the junior’s role. Already the freshman leads the Saints in scoring per 40 minutes at 19.4.
But there is more to Wright’s game than scoring, and Patsos doesn’t want Clareth taking on more than he can handle.
“I don’t want that. I want him to be Nico — and I want him to be a freshman Nico,” Patsos said Thursday. “What I mean is take it in stride. You don’t have to be the guy. No one is going to replace Marquis Wright for us.
“But together, we can each do a little bit, whether one guy is leading, one guy is doing this, one guy is playing defense. . . .”
Clareth, a confident freshman, has gotten the message. Yes, the team recognizes what it has lost in its leading scorer going down for an extended stretch. No, he is not going to try to fill the gap himself. Yes, Siena can continue to have a successful season even in Wright’s absence.
“Yes, Marquis is a big part, but that’s all you really want to do is win,” Clareth said. “We all practice as if you are ready to play. . . . Team play. We have a lot of scorers.”
With the Saints’ junior guard expected to miss at least six weeks with the fracture suffered in a Dec. 26 practice, Siena needs a way to make up for a player who not only averaged 17.3 points and nearly 38 minutes a game, but also dished out 4.6 assists per while pulling down nearly five rebounds and quarterbacking the defense. (Per Siena, Wright was among only four Division I players who average more than 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals per game.)
Clareth, averaging 9.8 ppg., and Kenny Wormley will man the backcourt, although Patsos said there were other options, and he is still open to them if the freshman combo falter.
“That’s the tricky question: Do you go big and play Imoh [Silas] and Evan [Fisher] and move everybody down one [position]? Or do you play the young guys [Wormley and Clareth]? Or do you play really solid guys like Cam [Gottfried]?
“Obviously Kenny and Nico are going to start, and I hope they make it. . . . If it doesn’t work, I will make adjustments.”
Niagara is Siena’s most common all-time opponent; tonight marks the 95th men’s basketball game between the schools. Overall, Siena is 48-46 vs. the Purple Eagles — 46-33 in Division I (1976-77).
Brett Bisping leads the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in rebounding, averaging 8.9 per game.
Siena’s next four opponents (Niagara, Manhattan, Fairfield and Quinnipiac) are a combined 16-30 overall. Only Fairfield has a winning record (6-5). Meanwhile, the Saints finished non-conference play 7-4, their best out-of-league mark since going 9-0 in 1998-99.
Javion Ogunyemi left Tuesday’s Vermont game with a knee injury. But an MRI revealed no structural damage, and he has been listed as day-to-day with a knee bruise.
This is the Purple Eagles’ second trip to Albany for a game in 10 days. On Dec. 23, Niagara lost at SEFCU Arena to the University at Albany 65-56.
Former Niagara star Tyrone Lewis (2006-10) is in his first season as director of men’s basketball operations at his alma mater.